May 09, 2012

American skipper Ken Read steered Mar Mostro into Miami on Wednesday to win Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, putting Puma Ocean Racing back into contention in the grueling round-the-world race.

The little things in life that aren't available on the open ocean were waiting for Read and his crew: a warm shower, cold beer and getting to watch an NHL playoff game on TV in a bar.

"Life is good," Read said in a phone interview.

Puma Ocean Racing, the only American-based team in the fleet, won its second straight leg, ending an epic 17-day match race with Camper of New Zealand-Spain.

Puma also won Leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. The consecutive leg victories are a huge comeback for a crew that has been playing catch-up since the first leg, when it was left stranded in the south Atlantic Ocean after its mast shattered. Because Mar Mostro - it means "sea monster" - had to be shipped from a remote island to Cape Town, Puma scored zero points on that leg.

Although there are only three American crewmen on Mar Mostro, Read said it was a great feeling to win the leg with the only stopover in the United States.

"I can't say it was unexpected," said Read, who's from Newport, R.I. "This is what our team always expected. It's kind of a confidence that's been brewing for a while. It's all happening. It's all good."

Puma led the entire leg, which covered 4,800 nautical miles. Puma beat Camper into Miami by about five nautical miles. Read said the rival boat was in sight almost the whole leg, and other boats in the fleet closed the gap at times.

"It was a hard leg," he said. "There were tons of weather features. There are times when you say, `It's not going our way.' But for some reason we figured out how to make it go our way. It seems like we did so many good things in this leg. We've got a bit of a roll going. That's a good thing. Momentum is a good thing."

Read said most of the leg was sailed in fairly light wind. Mar Mostro would build a lead, and then run into a wall where there was no wind, allowing other boats to close the gap.

"We were the first to figure out how to poke our nose out of it. It happened five or six times where you'd sail into a pothole, and that lead you worked so hard to get has literally evaporated in hours," he said. "You had to start all over. The reality is, it's really easy to crack in those situations.

"It would have been so easy to lose, and nobody on board would allow it to happen. It was wonderful to see."

Puma is in fourth place, 17 points behind overall leader Telefonica of Spain.

With six of nine offshore legs complete in the race that will cover 39,000 nautical miles, Telefonica leads with 164 points, followed by Groupama with 153, Camper 149 and Puma 147.

"Given that we gave away 30 points on the first leg, it says a lot for this team," Read said.

After an in-port race on May 19, Leg 7 to Lisbon, Portugal begins the next day. The race is scheduled to finish in Galway, Ireland, in early July.

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